Continuing its isolation platform releases, Paul Rigby looks at the comparatively svelte ZaZen
Back in what, February of this year was it? Around that time, I reviewed the Delos isolation platform from IsoAcoustics. Two actually because they arrived in different sizes to accommodate different hi-fi components of varying weight. I was sold on the samples I saw and heard. Both in terms of aesthetics but even more so, their sonic performance.
The Delos was created to handle relatively heavy pieces of kit and to lower the noise floor for anything sitting a-top.
Presented as solid wooden block, with noise-reducing isolation feet situated below, the products arrived as solid wooden blocks of Walnut or Maple spanning 455 x 380mm up to 560 x 405mm in size. Both sizes are available in 45mm and 76mm thickness. The smaller size has a maximum weight capacity of 29.5kg and 24.9kg for the 45mm and 75mm models respectively.
That also meant that prices started at £400 for the Maple design and £600 for the Walnut models.
For some pieces of hi-fi, all of this was too much and too far. That is, for some hi-fi items, the size and the subsequent prices were overkill, frankly.
This is why the zaZen has been created. zaZen means sitting meditation, apparently.
Actually, the moniker ‘Zen’ is becoming a popular ‘go to’ in branding terms of late. iFi is all over it, as is Innuos and then there’s the company, Audiozen, cables called the Zensati and more. I’m expecting celebrity children to be named similarly in the near future. Zen Beckham, anyone?
Slimmer in terms of size and also lighter, the zaZen can’t be really compared to the Delos because its aimed at different and much lighter audio components.
Available in two sizes, the zaZen I (38mm in height) has a weight capacity of just 11.3kg and the zaZen II (42mm in height) can handle up to 18.1kg. Still way down on the Delos’ lightest figure of 24.9kg. I’ll be reviewing the zaZen II for this review.
What the ZaZen is made from is a bit of a mystery. Enquires only returned, “dense fibre material” which might be MDF. Short of hacking the thing to death in a Hitchcockian frenzy and risking the ire of IsoAcoustics, I’m not wholly sure.
Underneath the block is a set of four IsoAcoustics patented isolation feet that are recessed into the body of the block. The combination aims to reduce vibration, lower the noise floor and increase available information floating towards your ears.
So how does this new platform sound?
I began by laying my two-box phono amplifier on top of the zaZen II. Alongside the turntable, I see the phono amplifier as the main priority in isolation terms. Testing various isolation products in the past, I’ve found the phono amplifier to be critical in terms of anti-vibrational attention. More so in my case because my phono amplifier is full of valves.
I compared the zaZen II with the two-box unit sitting on my hi-fi rack to see what difference could be heard, if any. Then looked at it when compared to my reference.
There was a change and it’s a bit like this. If you’ve ever been to a sports arena where the action has died down and nothing much is happening, either the action is to come or it’s happened and the crowd have relaxed into a low hum. That’s a bit like the ‘before’. Before the zaZen II was in action. Putting the zaZen II into the hi-fi chain was a bit like the same sports arena when everyone has gone. Suddenly, there seemed to be more air in and around the place. Any knock or movement or lone voice suddenly arrived with its own reverb. And those noises sounded cleaner with more clarity.
All of that could be applied to the zaZen II. The lead vocal here certainly offered a cleaner, crisper and clarity-sodden delivery. It seemed suddenly nimble. As if something was dragging it and now the vocal had struggled free of the same.
Vocals here moved easily and without any encumbrance.
Treble was infused with space. Cymbal hits were focused and concise with new-found reverb tails adding atmosphere to the strike.
Bass wasn’t heavier or more massy but its level of precision rose while bass offered a greater degree of impact and punch. The organic tone of the bass was also enhanced now. That is, the realism from bass frequencies was enhanced.
Because the noise floor had lowered, that meant that shy effects were now far more noticeable. Little shuffling notes around the Hammond organ solo, mid song, added to the rich flavour of this sequence while synth lines that were there but the ear struggled to focus upon where now clearer and easily latched upon. Again, this added a rich and layered aspect to the soundstage as a whole.
The same effects were heard when I tried the platform underneath my Audiolab 6000CDT CD transport and played a selection of Jean-Michel Jarre. Jarre’s music can sometimes be reduced to an amalgam, a sort of synth blob, if there is any lack of focus or precision. Synth lines can begin to slur and fade into one another.
Not here though. The lucid nature of the presentation produced air that infused and surrounded each note, giving it a sense of freedom. This enriched the focused nature of the music, enhancing transparency too while also widening the boundaries of the soundstage.
The lowering of the noise floor also added more information to the music which meant that the tracks sounded fuller, while offering a sonic complexity. That is, the reduction of noise was a bit like the sea’s tide moving out to reveal a host of new details lying on the newly revealed sand. A lot of this information was relatively minor but, if you added it all together, the result was a lush and ample soundstage.
What the zaZen II does is to allow you to hear information that’s always been there. You just haven’t been able to detect it because vibration has increased the noise floor, masking the stuff. Getting in the way.
The zaZen II helps to clear out the rubbish, effectively. It allows you full access to the midrange and opens up the bass to produce a layered, organic and detail-rich sonic presentation. The zaZen II is an effective accessory that should be part of your anti-noise toolkit.
ISOACOUSTICS ZAZEN ISOLATION PLATFORM
zaZen I – £199
zaZen II – £219
Tel: 03301 222 500
GOOD: clarity, transparent mids, organic bass, low-vis design, low noise
[Don’t forget to check out my new Patreon Page at www.patreon.com/audiophileman, for exclusive postings, giveaways and more!]
Icon PS3 phono amplifier
Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp
Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II monoblock amplifiers
Quad ESL-57 speakers with One Thing upgrade